Christmas is the time for traditions and this includes traditions in the kitchen. Anyone who cooks (and even many who don’t) have at least one recipe they make every year that has been handed down the generations. Whether it’s for a pie, cookie, salad or entree, it’s a family favorite and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without it.

My family honors its Portuguese heritage with a soup recipe that I make every year around this time. Kale is one of the primary ingredients and it begins showing up in the stores around Thanksgiving. My version of the soup is very hearty with roast beef, Italian sausage, chorizo and potatoes, along with the kale. Everyone who has ever tried it loves it. I’ve never heard one person say they didn’t like it or even “it’s okay.”

So at Thanksgiving, my mom, my aunt and I were sitting at the table after dinner and Mom asked if either of us had made this soup yet this year. Then we got to talking about how she had been to Massachusetts once and was talking about the recipe with a cousin. When they delved into details, though, they realized they had two very different ways of making the same soup. And another cousin had even a different way. The recipe had come from the Azores from the same woman, but as it was passed down, each person apparently made their own tweaks.

My hearty recipe is similar to my mother’s, I think – it’s been so long since I’ve had hers and I may have made my own adjustments. But I know ours isn’t quite like what my grandmother used to make – hers had less meat and didn’t use chorizo, but linguica, a Portuguese sausage. Our cousins’ versions had very little meat, but white beans. I remembered watching Emeril Lagasse make it once on TV and his was also different than ours, but more like our cousins’. Now, though, I see he has one similar to our recipe.

And what’s even funnier, we’ve always called it “coivis” but I can’t find that term anywhere on the Internet, spelled any kind of logical way. I know that’s what Emeril called it, too, because that’s what caught my attention at the time of the show, but now all his recipes simply say “kale soup.” So even the name is being lost in the modern world.

How funny that everything, even our favorite hand-me-down recipes, change over time. Then again, you can have the situation I remember reading about one time:

A young woman was making a beef roast in the oven and she cut the ends off the roast before placing it in the pan. Her new husband asked why she did that because his mom never did. She said it was part of the recipe her mother gave her and that’s how her mom “always did it.” Curious, though, she asked her mother the reason for cutting off the ends and Mom said it was part of the recipe her mother gave her and that’s just how her mom “always did it.” So the young woman called Grandma and asked why she cut the ends off the roast. “Oh, well, honey, we had very small ovens back in my day. I had to cut off the ends so the roast would fit!”

So, even as some recipes may change drastically, others stay the same even when they don’t have to because “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

Do you have any family favorites that have been handed down? Do you know if it’s still the same as the original or has it been changed? Do you tweak recipes, even old family favorites, to give it your own touch?